Building permits are up by more than a third this year in Michigan.  Home prices are also rising.

These should be great days for Michigan’s homebuilding industry, which nearly ground to a halt during the recession.

But there’s a problem: not enough workers.

A survey finds a third of Michigan homebuilding contractors are having trouble finding enough workers to do the job. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Fraudulent loan activity declined slightly in Michigan at the end of last year.

Kroll Factual Data checks loan applications for phony buyers, attempts to misrepresent the value of homes and other fraudulent information.

Kroll president Rod Bazzani says there's been a surge in home loan refinancing, which may explain the decline.   He says refinancing more than doubled last year.

“When you understand that statistic, you realize you’re going to have much less fraud in a refinance environment than you would in a purchase loan environment,” says Bazzani.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate is no longer among the nation’s worst.

Realty Trac reports Michigan ranked 16th in the nation in home foreclosures in March.  That is a far cry from a few years ago when the state had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate.

Mary Townley is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.  She credits the authority’s “Step Forward” program for providing assistance to people at risk of losing their homes…

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home builders are optimistic about the year ahead.

The recession walloped Michigan’s home building industry. Many builders went out of business. Others merged and focused on home remodeling.

But a new survey shows Michigan’s home builders are optimistic about getting back into the business of building new homes. They say pent up consumer demand, especially for more expensive homes ($200,000 to $800,000), is pushing up the Michigan Housing Index.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report finds three regional cities are good places to buy and rent out single family homes.

A new Realty Trac survey lists Detroit, Saginaw and Toledo among the 20 best markets in the country to own and rent single family homes. Florida cities dominate the rest of the list.

The top 20 are based on the markets with the most potential cash flow and capitalization rates on a 3-bedroom home.

Saginaw ranked second on the survey.  Toledo came in third.  Detroit ranked 15th on the list.  Memphis, Tennessee topped the Realty Trac ranking. 

National Low Income Housing Coalition

The National Low Income Housing Coalition asked the question, "where in America can a low-wage worker afford a two bedroom apartment?"

Their answer:


That's "nowhere" assuming the renter is spending no more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.

Ask any financial advisor and they'll tell you that's the general rule of thumb. It's called the 'housing cost burden.'

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Detroit’s real estate market posted some of the strongest price gains in the nation in 2012.

The just released S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index charts home sale prices in the nation’s twenty largest cities.

Detroit home sale prices rose more than 13 percent last year, the third highest percentage increase in the survey.

Craig Lazzara is the head of Index Investment Strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices. He compiled the report. Lazzara says, despite the rise in prices, homes in Detroit are still selling for about what they did in 1997. 

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate has "plummeted" during the past 24 months, according to a new report.

According to Realty Trac, home foreclosure activity in Michigan dropped about 23 percent last year compared to 2011  and 43 percent compared to 2010.

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.  He says Michigan still has one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation.

TAYLOR, Mich. (AP) - Fights in a line of several thousand people seeking applications to get on a waiting list for housing vouchers in a Detroit area community forced police to cancel the event.

The Taylor Housing Commission says Saturday in a release that upward of 4,000 people arrived ahead of the 9 a.m. start to get Section 8 voucher applications.

Some people began lining up Friday evening at the Taylor Human Services Building, southwest of Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports that four people were arrested for disorderly conduct.

cdc.gov / cdc.gov

Homeless Awareness Week in Michigan is November 10-18. The idea is to highlight the causes of homelessness and the issues that homeless people face. There are events planned in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Port Huron, and other towns.

In Livingston County a group of people will live in their cars for 24 hours and eat only what they can buy with about $5 in food stamps, in order to raise awareness.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home builders are more optimistic now than they’ve been in several years.

A new survey by the Home Builders Association of Michigan shows improving housing starts and other trends give home builders and remodelers hope that they're emerging from the recession.    He says some markets, like Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, are already seeing an increase.

“Trends are all trending upward,” says Robert Filka, the association’s CEO, “We’re very optimistic about the outlook for the industry.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Detroit’s home foreclosure rates are dropping.

Realty Trac reports Detroit now has the 39th highest home foreclosure rate in the country. That's a big change from a few years ago, when Detroit routinely ranked in the top ten.

In September,  Detroit’s home foreclosure rate was at its lowest point since September, 2006. 

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.    He says Detroit’s foreclosure numbers are improving, but he says more than half of Wayne County homeowners are ‘underwater” on their mortgages.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate could soon reach a milestone.

A few years ago the state's foreclosure rate was near the top of the fifty state list.

But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says the latest data shows Michigan is poised to drop out of the top ten, possibly by the end of the year.

"It’s still in that top ten…but it’s moving down," says Bloomquist,  "(Michigan) had often been showing up in the top five over the last few years….now it’s moved down to number nine in September.”

Dilapidated homes in Delray near Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has finished the first round of what’s been called the "world's largest property auction."

The county is trying to get rid of more than 22,000 tax-foreclosed properties by auction. More than 20,000 of them are in Detroit.

But despite the glut of vacant properties, housing prices are headed up in certain areas of the city. Bob Dorsey is chief analytics-officer with F.N.C., which tracks housing prices nationwide every month.

"We've noticed that there are certain neighborhoods that have done extremely well, and others that have are still very flat or even declining," said Dorsey.

Dorsey said many investors see money in an expanding rental market in Detroit, and nationwide. Leaders in Detroit’s downtown and midtown areas say housing demand now out-paces supply there.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate continues to trend lower, but a spike in foreclosure filings may be coming this month.

August marked 22  straight months that Michigan’s year over year foreclosure numbers declined.

In fact, the number of foreclosure filings in Michigan in August fell 41 percent compared to August a year ago.   Also, none of the 20 U.S. cities with the highest home foreclosure rates are located in Michigan.

But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says there are signs that the trend may soon end.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s falling home foreclosure rate reached a milestone last month. 

But one analyst expects the second half of the year will see an uptick in homes being repossessed by banks.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate continues to fall dramatically.

Realty Trac reports today foreclosure filings in Michigan fell another 6% last month and are down more than 40% compared to a year ago.

“We’re getting close to now 2 years of a long-term downward trend in Michigan foreclosure activity,” says Daren Bloomquist, who is a Realty Trac vice president.

The White House hosted the LGBT Conference on Housing and Homelessness today in Detroit. It explored various issues lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people face when it comes to finding housing or dealing with homelessness. This was one of four such conferences the White House is hosting around the country.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Home sellers in Michigan saw prices drop significantly in the last three months. And one analyst predicts it’s a trend that shows few signs of easing.

Clear Capitol reports Michigan home sale prices between October to January dropped by 5.3 percent compared to a year ago. And the overall trend is even worse.

Alex Villacorta is the director of Research and Analytics at Clear Capitol. He says home sale prices in Detroit were down nearly 12 percent. Villacorta blames the fact that half the homes sold in the Detroit during the last three months had been foreclosed. He says banks sold the repossessed home at discounted prices.

“With more than one in two homes selling as a distressed sale,  it really puts significant downward pressure on home prices," says Villacorta.

Villacorta advises people not to put their homes on the real estate market right now if they don’t have to. But if you're in the market to buy a home, Villacorta has different advice.

“For a buyer, (this is) certainty a fantastic time to buy," says Villacorta, "(With) prices at levels not seen in decades…..with mortgage rates at record low levels it’s a great time to get in.” Villacorta says other markets around the country hit hard by the foreclosure crisis are showing signs of recovery. But not Detroit.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

According to Realty Trac, the number of home foreclosures in Michigan last year dropped to the lowest level since 2007. The actual number of foreclosure filings dropped 26% compared to 2010.   

The decline is partly due to a slowdown in the paperwork process. The average time between the first foreclosure filing and final repossession of a home in Michigan took 283 days last year. That’s a 46% increase over the number of days it took in 2010.  

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says mortgage lenders will be speeding up the pace of home foreclosures this year.  

"We’re past the peak of the foreclosure crisis in Michigan… but the numbers in 2011 were artificially lower than they should have been," says Bloomquist.  

Michigan had the sixth highest home foreclosure rate in the nation last year with one in every 45 homes receiving a foreclosure notice.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new report predicts home prices in Detroit will continue to decline. But the report also finds Michigan home prices overall are stabilizing.   

Real estate industry analysts at Clear Capital predict nationally, average home sale prices will remain relatively unchanged in 2012. Prices nationally have been falling since the housing market crash of a few years ago.   

Detroit’s home sale prices have been declining faster than the nationally average and Clear Capital predicts another 5 percent drop this year.    

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Home foreclosures in Michigan are expected to increase in 2012.    

The pace of foreclosure filings slowed in 2011 as mortgage lenders had to deal with new rules and lawsuits.    

Daren Bloomquist is with RealtyTrac. He said most of the issues that slowed the rate of foreclosure filings have now been dealt with. But Bloomquist said there’s always the chance that new obstacles will arise.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A church on Detroit's west side has become a community developer by building 90 homes over four years and injecting pride and optimism in the neighborhood.

The last batch of new tenants moved in this month. The Rev. Oscar King III says stable housing is crucial if Detroit wants to recover. The homes are near his Northwest Unity Baptist Church.

The Detroit Free Press says there were more than 800 applicants for the homes, mostly two-story colonials. The renters include professionals, low-income families and even the homeless. Jack Bostic Jr. says homes are more important than a church having a fancy place to worship. He says his neighborhood looks like any suburb.

Janet Norfleet says her children pick up trash on their block, a habit that others are following.

Campaign to End Homelessness website

The state is half-way through a ten year project called Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness. The project focuses on “housing first” or “rapid re-housing.” (That means reducing the amount of time people spend in shelters and trying to quickly find them permanent housing.)

Last year the state helped 40,000 people find stable housing.

Janet Irrer is the state’s homeless programs manager. She says housing first is a more humane way to help people make changes in their lives.

“You can’t deal with life in a shelter,” she says. “You can’t reach self-sufficiency there.”

The state is required to focus on housing first programs in order to get federal funding. Irrer says housing first programs are less expensive to run and help the state save money.

Tim Beckett / Flickr

This week, Changing Gears kicks off a look at Empty across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again.

In the first part of our series, I explore the economic and social cost of emptiness.

Things may be better in some neighborhoods, but problems still abound.

The numbers

Metro Detroit saw a boost in the number of home sales and home prices last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports the September increase came from an active summer selling season:

Sales rose 8.2% in September from 4,222 to 4,568 in metro Detroit, according to Farmington Hills-based multiple listing service Realcomp. The data includes sales from Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Median prices rose 10% from $68,000 last month to $74,900.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported earlier this month about positive home sale numbers around the state, but housing analyst Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol expected a decline this winter.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s annual conference was held in Toronto this week.  “Greenbuild 2011” was four days of seminars, classes, and discussions about how to construct buildings and homes, using more environmentally friendly methods. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan home sale prices increased significantly during the past three months. But according to a new report, prices are predicted to take another tumble. 

Michigan home sale prices are down dramatically from their pre-recession highs. However, a new report from Clear Capitol says Michigan home buyers have been paying more in recent months.

“Michigan overall is actually up even more so than the Midwest region. We have them up 8.5 percent on a quarter over quarter basis.  But still down six percent from where prices were a year ago," says Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol. 

But Villacorta says home sale prices nationally appear to have plateaued and he expects they will decline about 3 percent this winter and even more in Michigan, which he says is more volatile than the national housing market.  

Villacorta says Detroit’s housing market continues to struggle and remains one of the lowest performing home sales markets in the country. He blames this on the fact that one in every three homes on the market has been repossessed by banks that are now trying to sell them at far below market prices.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 August saw a big leap in the number of new home foreclosure filings in Michigan.   

2011 was expected to be a record year for home foreclosures in Michigan, but it didn’t happen.  Foreclosure filings slowed at the beginning of the year, as banks scrambled to fix paperwork problems and respond to new government regulations.  But it appears now the tide is turning.  

New home foreclosure filings jumped 36 percent from July to August in Michigan.  

user Bernt Rostad / Flickr

Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.